One of the first things to spring back into life on Thailand’s popular holiday islands of Phuket and Koh Samui are its local street markets. Rightly so, as Phuket shopping, or rather shopping in Thailand is on top of every traveller’s list.
You will find a night market or ‘walking street’ open virtually every day of the week. Some of these atmospheric, colourful bazaars seem to appear out of nowhere as vendors set up their stalls in a matter of minutes.
Whether it’s holiday outfits or beachwear, gifts or souvenirs you’re looking for, or a taste of authentic Thai street food, the islands’ street markets promise fun and entertaining experiences. They are the perfect excuse to mix with the island’s people and enjoy local entertainment.
Join us as we explore some of the islands’ best markets and shopping spots.
Markets in Koh Samui
The pandemic has brought many changes to both islands. In Koh Samui, tourism has gravitated away from the traditional tourist strip of Chaweng Beach to nearby Bophut where there has been an outbreak of cool new beach clubs, restaurants and bars. The popular Fisherman’s Village has burst back to life even bigger and better than before. From being open only on Friday nights, it’s gone to open on Monday and Wednesday as well.
This once sleepy, traditional Thai fishing village has long attracted visitors with its trendy fashion boutiques, tailor shops, souvenir bazaars, massage spas and a dynamic restaurant and bar scene which spills over onto the beach.
Fisherman’s Village Night Market is now packed with food stalls stretching half a kilometre, offering an overwhelming variety of Thai and western street food specialities and drinks. Snack as you walk or grab a table beside the outdoor stage where local bands belt out popular favourites as the beer flows.
Food stalls eventually give way to a long parade of stalls selling everything from t-shirts and beachwear to handbags, local crafts, souvenirs, spices, aromatherapy products, simple electronic goods and much more, all at affordable prices.
At one end, you will find Samui’s famous Coco Tam’s, a sprawling restaurant bar complex overlooking Bophut Beach. This is where hundreds of bean bags and hookah pipes attract a cool young clientele who sip their cocktails and watch nightly Thai fire shows.
Fisherman’s Village is an exciting mix of Thai and western cultures with a great vibe appealing to all ages. You will probably want to visit it more than once if your time permits.
There’s also Chaweng, the island’s longest and most beautiful beach with a five-kilometre stretch of shopping, dining, and nightlife. It is very slowly re-emerging with many cool new attractions and a fresher and cleaner new look. Attractions such as the Phru Chaweng Night Market by the lake are a fun place to spend a casual evening shopping and enjoying local flavours.
Chaweng is also home to Samui’s largest shopping centre, Central Festival Samui. Besides a high-end Central Food Hall and Central Department Store, there are three levels of great shopping. On the ground floor, an extensive open-air market sells all sorts of fashion items from great straw hats, artisan jewellery, pearls and racks of interesting fashions all at bargain prices.
Also worth a visit is Nathon, the island’s main ferry port where the main street is lined with inviting shops and arcades selling fashion, Thai art and local crafts. On Saturday night, the nightly Nathon Food Market expands from a food market to include clothing stalls.
Insider Tip: You can pick up some stylish and affordable summer clothes and beachwear in Koh Samui especially in and around Fisherman’s Village so don’t pack too much. You should also check out some of the new resort and beach club boutiques such as Tembo, Cielo and Melia which not only have resort wear for him and her but stunning homeware, art and crafts.
A visit to Phuket would be incomplete without experiencing the newly revitalised Phuket Old Town. The historic streets here are lined with restored Sino-Portuguese shophouses and grand colonial mansions in a rainbow of vivid pastel colours making it an Instagram paradise. This is the perfect place to start your Phuket shopping trail.
Most are now occupied by unique and exclusive boutiques selling stylish summer fabrics, handicrafts, homeware, art and antiques and endless collectables.
The main streets are Thalang, Dibuk and Phangnha Roads, and Soi Romanee where you will find artisan coffee shops, quirky cafés and wine bars. Do walk by restored heritage boutique hotels such as the famous The Memory at On On Hotel – featured in the movie The Beach – the Casa Blanca and Isara.
Shopping highlights must include the Oasis Thalang – a 150-metre narrow covered passage packed with stalls selling clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs and food. The Pink Flamingo Café and Endless Summer coffee shop and boutique, both in beautifully restored mansions, are other favourites.
On Sunday afternoon, around 4pm, Thalang Road becomes Phuket Walking Street as a fantastic night market is set up with stalls serving all kinds of delicious street food alongside music, art, clothing, and souvenirs. The atmosphere is electric and the ambience, smells and tastes, are intoxicating.
Other night markets in the Phuket Town area include The Phuket Weekend Market or Naka Market. A sprawling, crowded, hot and fun experience with two parts, one for bargain shopping and the other for food which local aficionados say is some of the best in Phuket.
Chillva Market, open until late, has a bohemian vibe and a huge choice of clothing, accessories, and everything else you can think of. It’s a fun and entertaining experience and the colourful shipping containers which make up the shop fronts offer a great photograph.
Over on Phuket’s west coast, Phuket’s most famous beachside destination Patong is experiencing something of a revival, with many new shops and restaurants creating a positive vibe. Some of the best shopping is now at Malin Plaza which offers a vast selection of summer fashion and beachwear, cosmetics, Thai handicrafts, luggage, and plenty more.
A bit further up the west coast, Boat Avenue near Phuket Laguna in Bangtao has become a happening place for shopping in Phuket. This laid-back collection of streets is now home to many upscale restaurants, bistros and bars. Try Bocconcino, Little Paris or Anise Tapas and Bar, or wine bars such as Luca Cini, all great spots to stop for a glass of wine or a beer.
Many stylish boutiques such as Kaanda Beach Life and Chandra offer an outstanding collection of glamorous beach and resort wear ideal for Phuket’s tropical climate. You will also find some interesting homeware stores with designer furniture, art and antiques and a huge store selling everything you can imagine in beaten Thai silver.
The prices on Boat Avenue are higher than other places on the island. However, the experience is truly laid-back California. Especially when you pass street-side bars like The Mexican selling tacos, mojitos and margaritas.
On Friday nights, the car park erupts in a blaze of colour and activity as the Night Market sets up. It may be modest in size but offers clothing and plenty of food options. The market adds another great dimension to the shopping and dining scene in this delightful corner of Phuket.
Insider Tip: Do make a trip to Phuket Old Town and take some time to shop and eat to your hearts’ delight. You need time to truly explore the myriad wonders of this enchanting and historic corner of Phuket.
Thailand Market Guide
Koh Samui Shopping
|Fisherman’s Village + Night Market||Bophut Beach Road, Koh Samui||Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5-11pm|
|Chaweng Walking Market | Phru Chaweng||G3M6+954, Tambon Bo Put, Koh Samui||Thursday from 5-11pm|
|Central Festival Samui||Location: 14/102 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach Road, Bophut, Koh Samui||Daily from 5-11pm|
|Nathon Night Market||GWPM+9V9, Tambon Ang Thong, Ko Samui||Daily from 5pm [Saturday for clothes and souvenirs]|
|Phuket Old Town | Phuket Walking Street||Thalang Road, Phuket Old Town||Sunday from 4-10pm|
|Phuket Weekend Night Market||Thalang Road, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand||Saturday and Sunday from 4-9pm|
|Chillva Market||Yaowarat Road, Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000||Tuesday to Saturday from 5-11pm|
|Malin Plaza Patong||162/51-52 Pa Tong, Kathu District||Daily from 2pm – 12 am|
|Boat Avenue by Laguna Phuket | Friday Night Market||49/14 Bandon-Cherngtalay Road, Tambon Cherng Talay, Amphoe Thalang, Phuket||Friday from 5–11 pm|